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Taliban biker militia: Anatomy of a failed Afghanistan ambush

The Taliban rode Honda motorcycles, but US and Afghanistan troops didn't fall for trap set by hardened, battle-ready insurgents.

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The Taliban had set a trap for the tiny company of Afghan soldiers here, its handful of US mentors and the American helicopters that they expected would rush in to help.

Firing mortars to lure the Americans and Afghans out of their mud-straw base, the motorcycle-borne Taliban headed toward a nearby ravine. Dozens of insurgents with light machine guns, a recoilless rifle and four trucks bearing three anti-aircraft guns and a heavy machine gun were set up in a classic ambush from high ground.

US and Afghan troops didn't take the bait, however, and instead waited in a village near the base for air cover. It arrived more quickly than the Taliban expected. Firing Hellfire missiles and 30 mm cannons, the pilots of two Apache helicopters made so many passes that they lost track and nearly ran out of ammunition. Afghan and US ground troops then moved in to kill more.

At least 17 Taliban died in the fight Nov. 7, possibly as many as 20, according to pilots and Afghan soldiers, who think the Taliban took the other bodies. The Americans and Afghans suffered no losses.

Welcome to F.O.B. Nowhere

The base where the battle occurred is in eastern Zabul province, in a location so remote that US soldiers there dubbed it "F.O.B. Nowhere." On Saturday, the US Army had the two Apache pilots travel to the base to meet the Afghan and American soldiers on the ground, who'd prepared a celebratory feast of rice and goat. It was a rare chance for soldiers who see the fighting from different vantage points to share their experiences of the same battle.

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